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Sharon Van Etten’s New Song “Porta”

Sharon Van Etten

This morning, Sharon Van Etten sent me her impeccable black and white profile with a new song and this very personal message: “Porta. Instead of darkness. Instead of our fears. We work through them. Even when it’s hard. Even when it hurts. Reach out. Reach out to that friend who helps you reach out towards yourself. Thank you Stella for being that friend to me. Video out now.”

“Porta” and its voluminous synths will probably give you strong ‘80s vibes while Sharon’s spacious vocals reach elegant heights. It’s a bit Springsteen-esque at moment – she has been there before – and overall quite triumphant. The song was written in 2020 at a time when the singer-songwriter was at one of her lowest points. She explains: “I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety and coping mechanisms for most of my adult life, and I’ve sometimes let those dark moments overwhelm me. During that time, I felt very dissociated.”

She found support and inspiration in conversations with Stella Cook, operator of the Pilates studio “Base Pilates” in North Carolina. “I was looking for a girlfriend, someone I could talk to […] but who also knows my weaknesses and can help me overcome them and find my other strengths. I knew I was entering a judgment-free zone and that I needed to be held accountable for my actions, and Stella helped me with that.” She adds: “I started to feel closer to her and to myself and that made things seem hopeful. I just wanted to share that with the world. Instead of darkness. Instead of my fears. My message is to overcome them. Even if it’s hard. Even when it hurts.”

Sharon’s battle against depression is reflected in the lyrics: In the song, depression becomes a stalker at her door (porta is door in Italian?) while Sharon is reclaiming her body and sanity: “I want to be myself, want to be there/You want to rip my style, and want to be there/You want to hear my love, want to be there. You want to steal my life.”

Her friendship with Stella certainly influenced the video that shows her exercising with a friend (Stella?) as if they were both auditioning for a Jane Fonda or Olivia Newton Jones’s aerobic video –the ‘80s synths again. Sharon surely wanted to work out these bad feelings away.

It’s currently unclear whether “Porta” is a title announcing a new album or just a single. With the song, Sharon Van Etten has also announced the “Darkness Fades” tour through Europe that will continue as “The Wild Hearts” tour when she is joined by Angel Olsen and Julien Baker in July in the US. I will have the pleasure to see them in late July at the Greek theater in LA.

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